Thursday, May 18, 2006

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The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Not to want to say, not to know what you want to say, and never to stop saying, or hardly ever, that is the thing to keep in mind, even in the heat of composition."

Samuel Beckett

Captain Future's Log

Oil V. Gore

"An Inconvenient Truth," the docu featuring Al Gore's famous presentation on the realities of the Climate Crisis, opens this weekend in some cities. (You can see the trailer for it here.) But also coming your way this weekend--coincidentally, in cities where the film opens--will be a television ad blitz warning against "global warming alarmism." Which scientific group is behind this? Which impartial think tank or institute? Only one receiving its major funding from Exxon.

Think Progress reminds us of some inconvenient facts:

Science Magazine analyzed 928 peer-reviewed scientific papers on global warming published between 1993 and 2003. Not a single one challenged the scientific consensus that the earth’s temperature is rising due to human activity. The U.S. Climate Change Science Program concluded that humans are driving the warming trend through greenhouse gas emissions. And the EPA has said that the recent warming trend “is real and has been particularly strong within the past 20 years…due mostly to human activities.”

So when you're filling up this weekend (we're at $3.55 a gallon here), be comforted in the knowledge that your money is going to pay for not only untold wealth for people who are already among the wealthiest on the planet, but to pay for slick lies that have no higher moral purpose than to enrich these same people a little bit longer. They don't care about you, they certainly don't care about your children and grandchildren, or life on this planet outside of their own.

So maybe you have to buy their gasoline this weekend, but maybe you can think of ways to buy a little less. And you can send a message to them as well by going to see "An Inconvenient Truth" this weekend (or see it as soon as it opens where you are), because the opening weekend box office is what get's the attention of the corporations that control so much of our lives. They may not care about the future, but show them you do.

And tell them Captain Future sent you.

CLICK TO SEE: Is it a blue nation after all? In red, the states where Bush's approval is 50% or higher. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Aztec Blue, by contemporary Mexican artist Georgina Cabrera. Posted by Picasa
Is Chicago Becoming the First City?

As the railroad hub of the U.S., the city of Chicago was instrumental in shaping this country's economy and social organization. Famous for its stockyards and its gangsters, Chicago was also where the consumer economy began, when mail-order outfits like Sears and Montgomery Wards used the railroads to supply individuals with products they'd seen as images, as dreams. As a port city and a worker's city connected by rail to the south as well as the east and west, Chicago has had to deal with racial and ethnic violence and diversity for over a century. It also not coincidentally became a model for American suburbia, with its radiating suburbs centered on shopping malls.

Now Chicago may be poised to lead the nation into its only viable future. According to TIME magazine, Mayor Richard Daley and his environmental comissioner Sadhu Johnston are working to turn Chicago into what [Johnston] claims will be the most environmentally friendly city in the U.S. — as well as the nation's center for environmental design and the manufacturing of components for the production of alternative energy. If it works — and Daley is betting a hefty sum it will, with promises to buy millions in solar panels, for example — the green movement here is expected to yield the city perhaps billions in saved energy costs and new business.

This is the kind of vision this country needs. Without it, the U.S. will find itself a second-class country in another decade, because other nations are moving ahead. If Chicago is successful, it will help not only North America but the rest of the world, owing to the size and influence of the American economy and popular culture.

In much the same way that cities like Austin and San Francisco latched onto the boom in the Internet or biotech industry to propel their economies, Chicago is working hard to rev up its manufacturing and capitalize on the growth in green construction and wind and solar energies.

Chicago has taken first successful steps--more rooftop gardens on downtown buildings than anywhere, emphasis on energy efficiency in the widespread and important operations of city government (nobody in Chicago forgets that mayors have lost their jobs for not clearing the snow efficiently) and in environmental design. Beyond this, the goals are lofty but there is promise. Chicago's goal to use renewable energy for a quarter of its operations has already attracted a couple of solar panel manufacturers to the area.

That city government is taking the lead is not entirely out of character. Private enterprise worshippers like to believe that government is only a barrier, but especially in paradigm changes, that's an illusion (if not a conscious lie.) Infrastructure enabled or even sponsored by government (notably highways) has been key to change in the past. Partly because renewable energy is often also decentralized energy, smaller units of government---like cities--can enable and sponsor this wave of change effectively.

TIME says that Green Bay, Wisconsin is already consciously copying Chicago's efforts. Rust belt cities with a tradition of manufacturing and a manufacturing workforce should take heart, and take a long look at efforts like Chicago's, or the plans of the Apollo Alliance. In the meantime, Chicago is to be lauded for daring to seize the future once again.

by Andy Singer. More at Posted by Picasa
The Long Plame Game

While Karl Rove's lawyer is denying the story that his client has already been indicted (and Rove was confident enough of at least a day's grace to be out speaking about politics), the court record itself has a more solid piece of news, in Patrick Fitzgerald's latest filing.

According to David Schuster of NBC:

But the latest prosecution pleading says that on the day columnist Robert Novak's column first disclosed Valerie Wilson's identity, a quote "CIA official discussed in the defendant's presence the dangers posed by disclosure of the CIA affiliation of one of its employees as had occurred in the Novak column. This evidence directly contradicts the defense position that the defendant had no motive to lie. Instead, the evidence about the conversation concerning the Novak column provides a strong motive for the defendant to provide false information and testimony about his disclosures to reporters.

This is potentially an important piece of any case, not only on Libby's lying, but on Rove and others, and possibly even about the underlying act of outing a covert agent. The whole thing is way too complicated to follow, but there is the impression that Fitzgerald will lay out the evidence and build his cases, even if it takes years.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Humanity joins the endangered in Africa, like the Cheetah. Posted by Picasa

The Climate Crisis

The Good News in the Bad News

Just in case you thought the Climate Crisis prospects couldn't get worse, there's this:

A report to be released Monday by Christian Aid said 162 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone could die of disease directly attributable to global warming by the end of the century.

That's isnt deaths from water depletion, famine, pollution or warfare over resources (that would add perhaps 30 million more), but just from diseases as the subcontinent gets hotter and drier. But there's another part of the report:

If sub-Saharan Africa switched from fossil fuels to other sources of energy, including solar, wind and water, the environment would benefit and there would be more jobs, better health and enhanced opportunities for learning, the report said.

It estimated that every household in Africa could change to clean, renewable energy sources for less money than it would take to pay the region's oil bill for the next decade. Developing technology could even transform the world's most impoverished continent into a net exporter of clean energy, the report said.

The alternatives are suicidal, more starkly obvious there perhaps than in the rest of the world where dependence on non-renewable energy, not to mention burning carbon and destroying the forests that are literally the lungs of our planet, promise the same self-destruction.

But the opportunities are also clearer, and in some ways more durable. Where else in the world would solar energy be more accessible and useful? The BBC account of the report quotes: The author of the report, John McGhie, said that for $50bn (£26bn) the whole of sub-Saharan Africa could be turned into a solar-generated economy. "And $50bn is exactly the same amount as actually the continent would have to pay on extra fuel bills from oil," he said.

Renewable, sustainable, decentralized energy is the future, if there is going to be one. Africa should give itself, and humankind, a fighting chance, and the industralized nations must help. Using solar can ease pressure on the last of the African landscape, where many endangered species are periliously close to extinction. Our DNA tells science that this is the place we all came from. It may be the place where we begin to renew ourselves and our planet.

The West Winger

Tomorrow Never Knows

Monday Mourning: That very funny couple of minutes of Al Gore opening Saturday Night Live with a presidential address left a deep sadness afterwards, because of what should have been. Then Sunday night the final episode of The West Wing, the Bartlet administration that was our alternative presidency for seven years ended, and the Santos administration we'll never see began.

It was fun to see how quickly and bloodlessly (in both senses of the word) it does change, with the President's portrait coming down off the wall as the oath is administered to his successor, vans pull up and armies pack out the old during the ceremony. The last Bartlet appointee lingers a little too long and meets his successor coming in, and realizes he's already a nonperson.

And after seven years of ultra-sophistication, it was great to see a young dewy-eyed staffer overwhelmed with wonder as she starts her job just outside the Oval Office.

So this episode was, yes, very well done, and a fitting end to this marvellous series. Other than that, it sucks. Yes, the series had its ups and downs, but even in its lesser efforts, the political dialogue was head and shoulders above any we hear almost anywhere else. Now we're stuck with the Big Smirk and the Washington media bobbleheads. Apart from their decadence and the ruination of the human race they're idiotically leading, they're horribly dullminded, witless, ignorant, cliche-ridden, pompous poops. They're about as entertaining as a car wreck, when it's your car, and you're in it.

So let's end with excerpts from the most literate tribute I've run across, from Noel Holston in Newsday. The West Wing" not only has been better television than we usually get, it also has depicted a better presidential administration. No ordinary politician - or human, for that matter - "Jed" Bartlet is an improbable mix-and-match creation.....Pundits talk about people preferring a president they could have a beer with. Bartlet would raise a mug with you and tell you all about the hops and barley that went into the brew - and do the same for a fine Cabernet. He could talk history, philosophy, mythology, the ins and outs of baseball, turkey roasting and national parks. ..Who wouldn't want a fellow like that in the Oval Office? You might not love his politics, but you'd never have to worry about him embarrassing the nation."

Bringing a new level of intelligence and sophistication to prime-time television in itself would have distinguished "The West Wing." But it also posited an upbeat, inspiring vision of what a presidential administration could be. Bartlet was an honest, moral chief executive, and neither he nor the members of his staff were enriching their cronies, lining their own pockets or dropping their pants. "

It's a pity NBC is abandoning "The West Wing." There's plenty of life left in this series... Not only did "The West Wing" give us a glimpse, a suggestion, of what goes on behind those doors and in those hallways, it championed civility and statesmanship. Not a bad presidential legacy.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mothers Day Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"We are obliged to care for (1)evolving ecologies, and (2) each other, our various societies. We are obliged to care for "nature" and villages at the same time. Understood properly, it is the same agenda. There is, ethically, no other way to proceed."

William Kittredge

Gone? Posted by Picasa

Going? Posted by Picasa
Smirk's Lost Weekend

"Hunting with Dick" jokes are soon likely to be replaced by "hunting for Dick" reports. While Jason Leopold at Truthout writes that Karl Rove has already been served with an indictment which will likely be made public soon (I wouldn't discount a Mother's Day resignation first), Patrick Fitzgerald is already on the record with a court filing of evidence that suggests Cheney was behind the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson. A New York Times story Sunday says it was Cheney who wanted the NSA to spy on domestic American phone calls without obtaining warrants.

More revelations are expected in a hearing Monday when a former NSA member testifies that General Michael Hayden fomented even more extensive and illegal survelliance. The witness said publicly that what has been revealed so far is only "the tip of the iceberg." (Note to future generations: "icebergs" were very big blocks of ice floating in the ocean, most of which were typically underwater.)

Also this weekend, the FBI has been busy rooting around the office and home of the former #3 official at the CIA, looking presumably for evidence in a widening influence peddling + sex scandal.

Meanwhile, Newsweek has contradicted the initial poll by its corporate partner, the Washington Post, with a survey showing a majority of Americans believe Prez Bush has gone too far with his NSA spying and other programs he says are to fight terrorism.

What does it all mean? Cheney's probably on the way out, and the theory that Smirk's people are behind this may be on the mark. Rove's whirlwind tour of key Republican groups was probably done knowing it was his last official chance before he resigns. But he won't be gone, not really. No office in the White House, but he'll still have a phone. He will continue to direct Republican strategy for the 06 election campaign.

Still, chances are you're having a better weekend than the Big Smirk's.
President Gore

on Saturday Night Live.

You'll laugh, you'll cry...
Disgrace Updated

The Associated Press reports:

U.S. military troops with severe psychological problems have been sent to Iraq or kept in combat, even when superiors have been aware of signs of mental illness, a newspaper reported for Sunday editions.

The Hartford Courant, citing records obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act and more than 100 interviews of families and military personnel, reported numerous cases in which the military failed to follow its own regulations in screening, treating and evacuating mentally unfit troops from Iraq. "

"Twenty-two U.S. troops committed suicide in Iraq last year, accounting for nearly one in five of all non-combat deaths and the highest suicide rate since the war started, the newspaper said.

Some service members who committed suicide in 2004 and 2005 were kept on duty despite clear signs of mental distress, sometimes after being prescribed antidepressants with little or no mental health counseling or monitoring, the Courant reported.

I can't imagine something more irresponsible than putting a soldier suffering from stress on (antidepressants), when you know these drugs can cause people to become suicidal and homicidal," said Vera Sharav, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, a New York-based advocacy group. "You're creating chemically activated time bombs."

Although Defense Department standards for enlistment disqualify recruits who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, the military also is redeploying service members to Iraq who fit that criteria, the newspaper said.